Phub Dem 

If it wasn’t for the nationwide lockdown, Choki in Haa would be conducting her annual ritual (loche) tomorrow. Unlike others, Choki conducts her ritual on this day every year.

However, adhering to the dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce’s notification, she plans to conduct a soekha and defer the ritual.

Although the annual ritual was essential for her family’s wellbeing, she said it was necessary to defer the ceremony rather than risk Covid-19.

Starting with lomba celebration, people from Haa and Paro begin hosting their annual ritual and other offerings where family members from around the dzongkhag gather to make prayers and offerings to the local deities.

Similarly, popular community celebrations such as Chundu Lhabsel and Bongko are also temporarily suspended.

While events such as Bongko were celebrated once every three years, Uesu Gup Nima Tshering said that the celebration could be deferred indefinitely. “As this celebration demands mass gathering, we have to defer it considering the risk of the infection.”

Pem from Paro had already stocked up essentials for loche after the government announced lockdown in Thimphu. Her two-day ritual was scheduled on December 23 and 24.

Apart from the nationwide lockdown, she said that monks were unwilling to conduct the ritual as many people gatherer during such events. “I have postponed the ritual. It is safer for everyone involved.”

Both Haa and Paro dzongkhags temporarily suspended annual ceremonies and pilgrimage to sacred sites.

Haa dzongdag Kinzang Dorji said that the dzongkhag received numerous calls seeking approval to conduct rituals.

People have been urged to cooperate and postpone the ceremonies.

Following a positive case in Haa yesterday, the dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce declared Haa town, Betsho and Tsilungkha villages under Uesu gewog as red zones.  Movement of people and use of movement card is suspended in these areas.

Gongzim Ugyen Dorji School is operating in a containment mode after one of its students tested positive.

The student is the primary contact of a positive case in Paro. He travelled to Paro during the recent Lomba break and reportedly got infected.

After returning to Haa on December 20, he attended a half-day class on the next day before being traced as a primary contact of the case in Paro.

According to dzongkhag health officer Samten, the health surveillance team had sent the samples of his primary contacts to Thimphu.

As the student is from Betsho, Gup Nima Tshering said that his family was placed under home quarantine.

He said the student didn’t interact with many people in the village.

Paro has 21 positive cases as of yesterday. The three cases detected earlier yesterday were from Shaba.

According to a health official, mass screening began in Shaba following a community transmission.